International Women’s Day Interview – Alison Winger
Wednesday March 8th marks International Women’s Day and ahead of the event, we spoke to Alison Winger, whose work with Novozymes OneHealth has put her on the cutting edge of the field of STEM.
Novozymes is the parent company of PrecisionBiotics Group Limited. Based in Cork, PrecisionBiotics Group creates bacteria for human gut health providing supplements that are clinically studied and backed by science.
1. What is your own role?
I head up Product Development for Novozymes OneHealth, which is the human health division of Novozymes. We work with our innovation and clinical teams, as well as commercial teams and customers to bring our one-in-a-trillion solutions from concept through to launch. So for example, our innovation and clinical teams identify new enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins etc that show clinical efficacy for a range of health benefits. These amazing active ingredients then come to me and my team, who bring the concept into the lab and create the final product.
I have a global team, and all our probiotic and solid oral dosage (capsules, tablets and powders) prototyping is done at the labs in Cork. There are currently four in my Cork team but we’ll soon be six as we’ve made two new hires. I also have a team in Denmark, and in the US.
We work very closely with the commercial world, where we create our own branded products. Under the brand PrecisionBiotics, which is very well known in Ireland, there’s Aflorex, Zenflore, Alflorex Immune and Dual Action. All of these supplements are developed in Cork.
We also have a number of brands all over the world. We work with other customers, who approach us about using our probiotic strains under their brand name. In fact, my team and I sit with new customers every week creating these products. We work with them every step of the way, from trial stage to commercial launch.
2. What has been the highlight of working with Novozymes?
It’s always been a dream for me to work with Novozymes. When I first moved to Ireland and before I took up this role I had some interaction with the company and met some really great people there. I always knew that it was where I wanted to end up.
While I’m in the field of human human health, Novozymes as a whole does so much more. The company works in areas like biofuels, household care, pet care and in creating alternative proteins for plant-based foods. The strands are so wide-ranging and the great thing is, we all collaborate with one another across the board. It’s such a diverse company and very science-centric. Everything we produce in Novozymes OneHealth starts with a huge amount of screening and research. All of our products undergo gold standard clinical trials before they’re deemed effective.
In the short time I’m with the company, we’ve more than doubled in size. We have acquired a couple of other companies in the last couple of years and our amazing Alflorex and Zenflore technologies are making a massive splash in all these new markets. Increasingly, customers are taking notice of who we are and our amazing technologies. My family and I all take PrecisionBiotics products daily! I’m very proud to work here.
3. Where do you see Novozymes One Health in five years?
I see the company continuing to grow. The growth it’s seen so far has drastically increased our capabilities as well allowing us to expand into other markets. I see us as a global leader in the human health area, and as a company that can drive the industry in a really positive direction for science. When it comes to creating products that are founded on good clinical evidence, Novozymes is a role model. The technology we use is extraordinary and developing all the time. To put it in context; there are over a trillion microbes in your gut but one microbe can make a difference and that’s what we do in Novozymes OneHealth, find that one-in-a-trillion solution, and my team in Cork then make that solution in to a product we can all use and benefit from. I see us as a global driver for the industry.
4. How do the people of Cork interact with the business?
My team and I have found Cork to be a fantastic place to do business. Ireland is small, and within the scientific industry, we all know each other. I absolutely love it as a place to live and work. That is a real strength here in the science sector. Everyone is open, helpful and supportive.
We interact with a number of businesses in Cork. GPs regularly recommend the PrecisionBiotics products as they’re clinically shown to work. What we do is essentially Irish, and felt here in Ireland. However, our reach goes away behind here too. The products we’re developing here in Cork are used internationally which is hugely exciting for us.
5. How do you find Cork as a place to live?
I’m originally from New Zealand, and I came to Ireland in 2014. Seven years ago, I moved to Cork and I haven’t left, nor do I want to. I bought a house here, and met and married a Cork man and we now have a wonderful young family. We all love Cork, it is home. It’s quite normal as a scientist to change locations for work quite regularly but I definitely have no intentions of moving on from here anytime soon!
Ireland is really unique when it comes to the science, engineering and med-tech industry. The opportunities are like nowhere else. The lifestyle is so laid back here, and I find people very friendly. Even when the weather is not good, you just throw on a coat and get out into nature. I’ve lived in a lot of countries but I’ve never felt like settling anywhere until I came to Cork.